11 August 2013

PHOTOS: Ray Lewis' Owings Mills home for sale

Retired Raven, current ESPN analyst and future Hall-of-Famer Ray Lewis has placed his Owings Mills home on the market for $1.1 million.

Writes listing agent Nicole Nichols: "There are at least #52 reasons to purchase this stunning contemporary home. Graciously situated on over 2 acres. This home boasts lavish appointments of marble & granite, gourmet kitchen, grand master suites, olympic sized pool, sauna, steam shower,recessed lighting,2 fireplaces, finished ll complete with ravens blvd & entertainment & security systems. Your chance to own where the "1st ride" began!"

If you happen to have a spare $1.1 million lying around, check out detailed listings at estately.com and trulia.com.


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Jonathan Vilma has knee surgery, expected back for opener

Well, now we know why Jonathan Vilma was in Philadelphia, and what he was getting a second opinion on.

According to Adam Schefter of ESPN, the Saints linebacker is having knee surgery today.

Vilma is expected to miss the rest of the preseason, but is expected to be ready for the regular season opener.

Vilma’s viability has been a question on several levels. He missed six games last year because of knee problems, and had to take a pay cut just to keep his spot with the Saints.

There’s also a reasonable question of how good a fit he is in a 3-4 defense, and that question will now have to be answered without the benefit of preseason snaps to work on it.

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Miami Dolphins Q&A: DE Olivier Vernon

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins completed their 2013 training camp Thursday, and one of the top players in camp was second-year defensive end Olivier Vernon.

The former third-round draft pick has been arguably Miami's most improved player throughout organized team activities, minicamps and training camp. Vernon beat out No. 3 overall pick Dion Jordan for the starting job at defensive end, although Jordan has been hampered by an injured shoulder.

Vernon was a backup for the Dolphins last year and registered 3.5 sacks off the bench. This year he’s looking for more. I caught up with Vernon Thursday after the final practice of camp to get thoughts on his progress.

James Walker: Olivier, you and left tackle Jonathan Martin have been going at it a lot in this camp. How much are you making each other better for the regular season?
Olivier Vernon: We’re making each other a whole lot better. We try to go against each other every time in practice. As far as pass-rush moves, with me using my hand techniques, I’ve learned so much [facing Martin]. I’ve grown so much from last year to now, it’s like a whole different person. I have him to thank for that. He helped me a lot, and being able to see him, he’s gotten so much better. It works hand and hand.

Walker: I was going to ask about your growth since your rookie year. Has the game slowed down for you in Year 2?
Vernon: Last year was a whole boatload I had to learn. It was kind of overwhelming. But I just tried to go out there and played my best. Now, this year I feel like I know most of the things that’s going on. So it’s much easier. You don’t have to worry about, “Do I have to do this? Do I have to do that?” It slows down for you mentally.

Walker: What’s it been like playing for Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle?
Vernon: He’s a real cool dude. He sets people in position to make plays. If you know your role and you’re good at your role and do your job, you’re going to make plays. Last year was a new coaching staff, so he couldn’t put everything in. We had to crawl before we [could] walk. So this year it should be more things added on defense-wise.

Walker: Miami’s defensive line has a lot of depth. What’s the ceiling for this group?
Vernon: It can be great. We got a special D-line group. We all try to make each other better, especially with competition. The sky is the limit I feel like for this D-line.

Walker: Any predictions for your alma mater this year: the University of Miami?
Vernon: For the U? I know they’re going to beat the Gators [laughs]. That's for one. But I feel like they’re going to be okay. They’re going to be alright. It all depends on what happens with this whole NCAA thing [investigation].

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Bernie Kosar doesn't back off TV comments

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar addressed his harsh comments about the Rams last night during the pre-game show on WKYC.

He didn't apologize for his remarks and defended his commentary.

"I love the game so much and there’s no way I’d want to disrespect or hurt or make fun of any players or coaches,'' Kosar said of his take on the Rams. "That being said, the way I look at the game and the way I like to analyze it from a football perspective, it is what it is. Again, I don’t want to disrespect or hurt any of the players or coaches in the league. But I do like the way I look at the game and I have strong feelings about how the game is played."

Browns CEO Joe Banner reprimanded Kosar for his "personal and unprofessional approach" during the Rams broadcast, but never seriously considered taking him out of the booth.

Banner also reached out to the Rams, and Kosar called Rams coach Jeff Fisher to apologize.

On Sunday, Banner issued the following statement:

“We don't condone the personal and unprofessional approach that Bernie took with some of his comments during the broadcast Thursday night. We’ve spoken to Bernie, he understands that, and we would expect the situation is resolved moving forward. We’ve also reached out to the Rams organization and have shared those same sentiments."

Kosar, who ripped the Rams' receivers, third-string quarterback Kellen Clemens and receivers coach Ray Sherman, returned to his commentary role with play-by-play announcerJim Donovan for the second preseason game against the Lions.

In addition to Fisher observing that Kosar has "well-documented" issues, Sports Illustrated's Peter King asked Kosar via King's Twitter account if he had been drinking. King later apologized for the drinking reference.

Fisher acknowledged Monday that Kosar called to apologize, but declined to elaborate and said it was a dead issue.

On Saturday, Fisher went off on Kosar during his post-practice press conference for his harsh remarks.

"I feel bad for (the Browns) that they had someone doing their broadcast feel the need to speak that way about players," said Fisher, "specifically on our team and coaches for that matter.

"I'm just surprised that Bernie has such a lack of respect for players and this game. To be honest with you, I lost a lot of respect for him. It's highly unlikely he knew anything about our football team, but felt the need to make those comments. I don't think they were justified."

It was Kosar's comments about Clemens that seemed to most rankle Fisher. When he came into the game, play-by-play man Donovan told a story about Clemens having his daughter blessed by Pope Benedict XVI and giving the Pope an autograph.

Kosar said he didn't think he'd want the autograph himself, and added, "Bless me father for I have sinned. I have to watch him the whole fourth quarter."
Fisher retorted Saturday: "Bernie's got his issues; they're well documented."

Kosar's erratic behavior on local TV and radio is nothing new to Browns fans, who've been hearing it for years. But he's attributed it to post-concussion syndrome, for which he's receiving treatment.

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Eric Winston has toolbox for Arizona Cardinals’ O-line

Every NFL team needs a Mr. Fix-it. He’s the new player you plug in to help strengthen a particular position or unit, the guy who’s been there, done that, and also has the personality to thrive in any locker room.

The Cardinals might have found their Mr. Fix-it in right tackle Eric Winston, the eight-year veteran who has started 105 consecutive games since his rookie season.

Signed two days before the start of training campicon1 after failing to find big money on the free-agent market, Winston has stepped in and quickly provided stability to an offensive line that has had more than its share of critics.

Not only does he bring experience, toughness, and a passion for the game, he’s a colorful character who was immediately embraced and respected by his teammates.

“We’re happy he’s here,” starting center Lyle Sendlein said. “He’s come in and stepped up big for us right away. He’s got a great sense of humor and he’s fun to be around, but he’s pretty blunt sometimes.”

“Oh, yeah,” agreed rookie guard Jonathan Coopericon1. “He’s very vocal and has a huge stature. But he’s very opinionated and he’ll let you know what he thinks very quickly.”

Remind Winston that the Cardinals allowed the most sacks in the league last season (58) and the second-most each of the previous two years (54 and 56), and he’ll tell you exactly what he thinks about that, too.

It means absolutely nothing, according to Mr. Fix-it, and he should know.

The Houston Texans allowed an NFL-high 68 sacks in 2005. The next year, they drafted Winston in the third round out of Miami, plugged him in at starting right tackle halfway through the season, and cut their sacks-against total to 43.

It went down each of his next five years there, helping Houston’s offense finish in the top four in the NFL for three consecutive seasons (2009-11).

“We’re in a new system with a new coach and a lot of other brand new stuff,” Winston said, “so as far as I’m concerned ... we haven’t given up any sacks as a unit. We’re looking to keep it that way, too.”

Coach Bruce Arians hasn’t made anything official when it comes to his starters on the offensive line, though it is assumed Winston and Levin Brown will be the tackles, and Cooper and Daryn Colledge will man the guard spots next to Sendlein.

Those five are building chemistry on and off the field, and it’s essential given Arians’ love for the passing game.

“I don’t think it’s any secret. Everywhere B.A. has been, he’s looking to sling the ball,” Winston said. “Look at the Colts last year. Look at the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger. He wants to get the ball down the field.”

One of the best ways to do that, though, is by establishing the threat of a running game. That way, they can use a passing attack through play action.

“It’s much easier to protect on play-action passes than it is sitting back and sitting back and trying to keep those poor daddies on the outside from getting to the quarterback,” Winston said.

Winston’s helped block for running backs that have produced a combined four 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL. Last season, his only year with the Kansas City Chiefs, his team led the AFC in rushing with 149.7 yards per game.

Run blocking may be his strength, but Winston has more than held his own in pass protection, Arians said. And that’s good, because competition still exists across the line.

“It happens every year,” Winston said.

“A guy is working with the threes (third string), and all of a sudden he’s making a bunch of plays and now he’s with the twos and he’s battling for a spot. Somebody’s going to step up, play well, finish plays down field, make blocks and they’re going to get a chance. You just hope it’s you.”

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Texans owner 'not concerned' about Ed Reed

Texans owner Bob McNair says he's "not concerned" about Ed Reed's (hip surgery) status for the regular season.

It doesn't appear McNair was talking specifically about Week 1, which Reed is still very much in question for. Reed estimated last week that he's "75-80 percent." He's not going to play in the preseason.

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Jonathan Vilma battling injury

New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma flew to Philadelphia on Wednesday to get a second opinion on an unspecified injury, a league source said.

Vilma, 31, has missed six of the past eight practice sessions and did not participate in the first preseason game. The team has not revealed what Vilma's injury is. Coach Sean Payton said Wednesday he wasn't going to discuss the situations of any injured players.

Vilma missed six games with a knee injury last season.

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Sean Spence's recovery still progressing

Reports are positive on the progress of Steelers linebacker Sean Spence in his efforts to return from a gruesome knee injury at the end of the 2012 preseason.

What kind of linebackers groups is he returning to? One considerably deeper than the one he vacated last year, judging by the performances of the inside 'backers in the Steelers' first preseason game.

Marshall McFadden was an on-again, off-again roster member last year, but didn't have the same level of explosion he showed in the loss to the Giants. Vince Williams was preparing for his senior season at Florida State.

Stevenson Sylvester was thought of as the possibly heir apparent to James Farrior's vacated buck linebacker position, and Larry Foote was just a stop-gap.

Sylvester is now likely on the fringe of this roster, and, if Spence happens to begin the season on the team (something that can't be considered likely right now), he's likely not on this team.

Foote and Lawrence Timmons are the unquestioned starters, and will likely play over 90 percent of the Steelers' defensive snaps this year. However, with the youth infusion provided by McFadden, it gives the Steelers a few more options in terms of sub packages.

And to make it even more fun, what if Spence is able to suit up at some point in 2013? Let's make another hypothetical condition that he's at or right around the athleticism he displayed coming out of Miami in last year's draft. A nickel package involving Timmons and Spence is tantalizing. Or a bang package with Foote, Timmons and McFadden in a short-yardage situation is exciting.

While Spence's most likely outcome this year is to start on Injured Reserve with designation to return - a move that wouldn't be done until the Steelers have cut the team down to 53 players - he's currently on the PUP list, meaning it's still possible he's able to contribute early in the season.

The fact they haven't put Spence on injured reserve yet means there's still a chance - even if it's a Lloyd Christmas "one in a million" chance - he's on the Steelers' initial 53-man roster.

Imagine the results of Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and head coach Mike Tomlin spending time in the lab coming up with packages for a group of inside linebackers as athletic as this group potentially could be.

Maybe that's been the plan all along.

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Antrel Rolle talks his ankle injury

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Clinton Portis sues NFL over concussions

Last August, Clinton Portis choked back emotion during a news conference at Redskins Park as he officially ended his nine-year NFL career.
“This game provided me with everything I ever wanted,” the second-leading rusher in Washington Redskins history said.

A year later, the sentiment has faded. On Tuesday, Portis joined the stream of former players suing the NFL over head injuries, according to court records obtained by The Washington Times.

Portis is the lead plaintiff in an 83-player lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Other plaintiffs include former Pro Bowl quarterback Daunte Culpepper and 1,000-yard rusher Carnell “Cadillac” Williams.

But Portis, who played his final regular season game in 2010, is one of the biggest names of the last decade to participate in the litigation that has surged past 4,500 former players.

Ahman Green sued. Same with Stephen Davis and Thomas Jones and Dante Hall, in legal action where around 85 percent of the plaintiffs played before 2000.

Portis is the latest in a slew of big-name former Redskins to sue the NFL, joining Hall of Famer Art Monk, Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien and three founding members of the Hogs — Jeff Bostic, Joe Jacoby and Mark May — among more than 300 players-turned-plaintiffs.

Portis rolled up 9,923 yards with the Denver Broncos and Redskins. He finished 648 yards shy of Hall of Famer John Riggins‘ franchise career rushing record and holds the 28th best total in NFL history. That led to two Pro Bowls and, according to the 128-page complaint, issues that haven’t left.

The lawsuit claims Portis suffers from headaches, among other problems, and is “at heightened risk of developing further adverse neurological symptoms in the future.”

On Twitter late Wednesday, Portis described former players as “picked up & left behind” and defended his decision to join the litigation.

“The NFL was great to me and so was the Redskins!” he wrote. “This not personal it’s protection for the future.”

Later Portis added: “This is not about money for me I’m doing just fine!”

In recent months, Portis discussed the price of his success and seemed to lay the groundwork to join the litigation. During a June interview with CBSSports.com, Portis estimated he sustained 10 or more concussions during his career.

“The truth is I had a lot of concussions,” Portis said. “It was just the way things were at the time. I’d get hit hard and be woozy. I’d be dizzy. I’d take a play off and then go back in. Sometimes when I went back into the game, I still couldn’t see straight. This happened all the time. Sometimes once or twice a game.”

The most memorable of those hits came in November 2009 against the Atlanta Falcons. In the first quarter, Portis collided with two defenders. That included a helmet-to-helmet hit.

The blow left him unconscious and forced him to miss four games before finally being placed on injured reserve to end his season.

The month after Portis‘ hit and in the aftermath of several high-profile head injuries, the NFL announced a policy that required players who showed signs of concussion to be removed from games and barred them from returning the same day.

The Redskins released Portis in 2011, after he battled a torn groin muscle and the team faced an $8.3 million salary cap hit.

“Clinton gave everything he had, there is no question about it,” coach Mike Shanahan, who worked with Portis in Denver and Washington, said Wednesday. “He is one of the most physical players I’ve ever coached. Took a lot of pride in blocking as well as running. He was a credit to the game. I am not going to speak on his behalf of his concussions.”

Portis‘ complaint uses similar language to the more than 260 lawsuits filed, claiming the NFL didn’t do enough to protect players from head injuries and concealed their long-term impact from players. The NFL has repeatedly denied those claims in public statements and in court filings.

Portis and his Miami-based attorneys didn’t return requests for comment.

The litigation has been consolidated in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. Before ruling on the NFL’s motion to dismiss in July, Judge Anita Brody ordered both sides to mediation. A progress report is due Sept. 3.

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Chris Perez takes fourth blown save

Chris Perez blew his fourth save Wednesday, but he went on to pick up his fifth win against the Twins.

The Indians are 3-1 when Perez blows saves this year, with Perez picking up two of those wins. In this one, he gave up a game-tying solo homer to Joe Mauer in the bottom of the 10th, but he stayed in and pitched a scoreless 11th before the Indians scored in the top of the 12th. Joe Smith took over in the bottom of the 12th and pitched a scoreless inning for his second save.

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Ivorian sprinter Murielle Ahoure chases history

The Ivory Coast's Murielle Ahoure made history on Monday in becoming the first female African sprinter to win a medal in the history of the World Athletics Championships in the 100 meters.

The 25-year-old is keen to wire another chapter of history by becoming the first African woman to win a medal in the 200m.

She is the daughter of General Mathias Doue a former chief of staff of the Ivorian army until he was sacked in 2004 by ex-president Laurent Gbagbo
Those heats begin Thursday with the final on Friday.

Ahoure, who reached both the 100m and 200m finals at last year's Olympics, showed in relegating defending world champion Carmelita Jeter into third in the 100m that she has the mental strength to cope with the major finals.

Ahoure has remained very much an Ivorian despite a bohemian lifestyle from an early age which saw her sent to France aged three and then on to the United States where she was educated.

Indeed one of her ambitions is to be a role model to other African athletes and stop them from moving abroad and accepting payment to change nationality and run for other countries.

“This medal was for the Ivory Coast, no other country,'' said Ahoure, who has five siblings.

“I think it is sad so many African athletes feel it is necessary to move abroad and run for other countries. At the same time I understand as they have to make a living and an athlete's life is a precarious one, one lives with the ever present fear of injury which can end your career.''

While Ahoure is grateful to the United States for having provided her with an education and with her future career assured as a lawyer, she said she wants her exploits on the track to persuade other Africans to follow her example.--AFP

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Lamar Miller should be judged on yards per carry, not rushing yards

DAVIE – Dolphins running back Lamar Miller has a goal of 1,500 yards rushing.

But don’t judge him on his rushing total.

When you judge Miller, the second-year player from the University of Miami, pay closer attention to his yards per carry because that’ll be the more accurate gauge of his effectiveness.

Realistically, Miller should look to average somewhere around 4.0 yards per carry, maybe a bit more.
If Miller averages 4.3 yards per carry it’ll be a wildly successful season. He’d probably be in the top 20 in the NFL in that category and would almost certainly rush for around 1,000 yards.

Everyone would be happy with those numbers.

And it’s more realistic than 1,500 yards.

For Miller to rush for 1,500 yards he needs to put up crazy numbers in carries and yards per carry.

Houston’s Arian Foster led the NFL with 351 carries last season.  We’ll be generous and give Miller an optimistic 300 carries, which is nearly 19 per game.

He’d still need to average 5.0 yards per carry.

That’s not happening – not the 300 carries, not the 19 carries per game, or the 5.0 yards per carry.

Reggie Bush, who played two seasons for the Dolphins, averaged 14.4 carries per game in 2011. He averaged 5.0 yards per carry (216 total carries) while rushing for a career-best 1,086 yards.

Last season Bush averaged 14.2 carries per game (227 total). He rushed for 986 yards in 16 games and averaged 4.3 yards per carry.

Miller can set his goals where ever he wants, and it’s nice that he sets them high. But fans should simply hope Miller, a first-year starter, isn’t a drop-off from Bush.

Let’s face it, Miller is a first- and second-down back. He usually won’t be in the game on third downs. Daniel Thomas is the third-down back. He’s a better pass blocker, receiver, and short-yardage runner.

Plus, you’d expect quarterback Ryan Tannehill to pass more frequently than a year ago with new toys such as wide receivers Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson and tight end Dustin Keller. That’ll cut down Miller’s carries.

Beyond that, the offensive line is shaky, which also works against Miller. You’ll recall Miller was slowed by nagging injuries in college. He has to prove he’s durable enough for a 16-game NFL season as the primary ball carrier and a leaky offensive line won’t help in that regard.

Miller has the speed and moves to be an effective back in the NFL, but so do about 30 or 40 other guys. Miller has to prove he’s an effective ball carrier.

The best way to judge Miller is to look at his yards per carry, and if he’s around 4.3, and he stays healthy, it’s been a fairly productive year.

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Jimmy Graham struggling in camp with dropped passes

The Saints' tight end has continued to struggle with occasional dropped balls during training camp -- a problem that plagued him last season. Graham dropped two passes Monday, one in team drills and one in 7-on-7 (though one could have been considered a pass break up).

Graham later bobbled a pass but hung on to make the catch in tight traffic for a third-down conversion during team red-zone drills. Physically, Graham has looked very good this summer, and I'm still expecting a monster year from him. But he needs to make sure the drops don't become a habit.

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Special Teams could be key for DE Adewale Ojomo

Last preseason, when an unknown Adewale Ojomo notched four sacks in three preseason games, everyone was surprised but him.

This preseason – like on Saturday night against Pittsburgh – no one was caught off-guard when he contributed 1.5 of the Giants’ five sacks.

He had already made a name for himself, albeit preseason.

“There’s no on-and-off switch,” Ojomo said before Monday’s training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. “It’s the same thing every game. You can expect the same thing from me day in and day out. Whether that’s in the preseason or whether that’s in the regular season – whenever – it’s going to be the same thing.”

The defensive end, however, was unable to carry the success into the regular season as a rookie in 2012. Playing behind the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, the undrafted University of Miami product dressed for just one game.

Ojomo is working to expand his contribution beyond rushing the passer in 2013.

“I think the biggest thing that changed is now I’m focusing hard on special teams,” said Ojomo, who recorded an assisted tackle on punt coverage in Pittsburgh. “I’m concentrating on [it]. There are three aspects to the game – you have offense, you have special teams and defense. And I think I needed to make a big improvement on special teams and that’s what the coaching staff is asking of me. So that’s what I’m trying to do now.”

It’s not a hard sell in the meeting room when teammates like Pierre-Paul and Tuck began their careers in that phase of the game.

“I’m just going hard in practice listening to what [defensive line] coach [Robert] Nunn is coaching,” Ojomo said. “I have a great coach and great guys around me. That’s basically it – just doing what the coach asks of me and using the techniques that he teaches.”

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Kellen Winslow, whose motorcycle wreck almost cost him his career, now a bicycling enthusiast

CORTLAND, N.Y. – Eight years ago, a motorcycle accident outside a suburb of Cleveland left Kellen Winslow with a torn ACL and a subsequent staph infection, causing him to miss the 2005 NFL season. You'd think he'd stay far away from anything with two wheels after that, but that's not the case.

He has given up his leather jacket for biker shorts, and some horsepower in his Suzuki GSX-R750 motorcycle for a Venge bicycle that he rides every day to and from New York Jets training camp.

After nearly losing his life due to that horrible motorcycle crash, he is channeling his love for the road in a different direction.

Winslow tells Yahoo! Sports that fellow wide receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes have asked about the benefits of bicycling after seeing his passion for it. Not only does he pedal to and from practice, he has brought a “trainer” with him to camp so that he can ride stationary during warmups and on days he is not in pads. He hopes it helps him regain full health following recent struggles with knee injuries that limited him to just one game last season.

“It helps my knee out, keeps me in top shape. I feel great when I do it, I feel lousy when I don’t,” Winslow said. “For training camp, I put it in the back of my car, took the front tire off and just put it in there with the rest of my stuff. That’s all I do in the offseason is ride. I climb those hills in San Diego. Climbing is brutal enough; you don’t have to lift weights if you climb those hills. I do push-ups and upper body stuff but that’s it. That’s my offseason workout – pretty much riding.”

He has looked like a new man in Jets training camp and seems to be a perfect replacement for tight end Dustin Keller, who left via free agency to AFC East rival Miami this past offseason. After being cut by the Seattle Seahawks last preseason and then playing just one game last season with the New England Patriots, he is out to prove his career isn’t over yet.

And cycling, he says, gives him the leg up that he needs to stay healthy. He has become preoccupied with cycling and said that he plans on riding and perhaps competing when his NFL career is over.

He cycles five times a week. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday he rides for roughly 90 minutes and tries to pace at least for 25 miles. On Saturday he ramps it up and logs roughly 50 miles. As grueling as it sounds, he said,“Nothing can beat it.” At 6-4 and 240 pounds he isn’t a prototypical cyclist, but he takes it seriously.

He tracks his mileage and speed, and is obsessed with his physical condition and how his body responds to a ride. On average, his heart rate is 152-157 beats per minutes with a maximum heart rate of 185-187 beats per minute on intense rides. One time, he registered 196 beats per minute on an intense climb.

His wife won’t let him on a motorcycle anymore so he has replaced that thrill with this new love affair. When he’s not bicycling he said he thinks about it and reads up on how to cycle better. He hopes it will translate on the field with stronger legs able to withstand the grueling NFL season. So far in training camp with the Jets he has looked like a player finally healthy and ready to make an impact.

And he thanks the bicycle resting on its training stand just a few yards away, waiting for him to ride it back to the team’s dormitory.

“It takes pressure off your legs, you feel better off of it,” Winslow said. “I’m riding every day. I have to. If I don’t, I just don’t feel right. I’m even thinking about it right now.”

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Frank Gore has a formula for success

By any measure, 49ers running back Frank Gore has been enormously successful. Gore would be part of the 49ers’ Mount Rushmore during the era of 49ers history in which he has played. What’s notable about the 30-year-old Gore as he enters his eighth season as a still-productive-running-back is how much he hasn’t changed over his career.

Gore said success depends on a few simple pillars – Work hard and train, listen to the coaches, compete and have fun. Do those things Gore said and, “You’ll be fine.”

As Gore grows in stature within the NFL, and particularly within his own team, he doesn’t feel anymore pressure to become more of a vocal leader.

“I’m the same,” Gore said. “If I have to say something, I will say something. It’s the same way with (wide receiver) Anquan Boldin, he’s not a vocal person, but he works and he has had a nice career.”

Boldin also has what Gore covets, a Super Bowl ring.

“My career at this point is about winning,” Gore said. “The last two years here have been fun for me. They have been the best years of my career.”

Gore is now surrounded by like-minded teammates – players who are talented and dedicated. That wasn’t the case when he first became a starter seven seasons ago. After a galling loss, he ventured into the players’ parking lot and saw some of his teammates laughing and joking. Gore immediately started crying and openly wondered what kind of team he was on.

So while Gore hasn’t changed, his team and his teammates have.

“It’s different now,” Gore said, before disappearing into the locker room with his position coach, Tom Rathman. “We expect to win.”

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Antrel Rolle will do “whatever it takes” to play in opener

Safety Antrel Rolle said that there’s no timeframe right now for his return to the field from the sprained ankle he suffered in Monday’s practice when his feet got tangled up with tight end Bear Pascoe’s on a pass thrown Pascoe’s way.

The lack of such a schedule didn’t stop him from making a prediction for where he’ll be on September 8 when the Giants face the Cowboys. Rolle said he’ll be on the field.

“I am going to do whatever it takes to make sure that is not even a possibility,” Rolle said, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post. “Treatment two times, three times, four times a day, whatever it takes, I am going to do it.”

Rolle described his injury as a “pretty good” sprain, although it is not the dreaded high ankle sprain that has bedeviled many players, including Rolle, over the years. With almost a month to go before the first week of the regular season, Rolle, who has not missed a game in the last three seasons, would seem to have a good chance of making good on his vow to be in the lineup for that game.

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Ed Reed working with rehab specialist away from Texans camp

Texans free safety Ed Reed wasn’t at practice today. Coach Gary Kubiak said Reed was given permission to work with his own rehabilitation specialist a couple of days this week and next week.

Reed remains on the physically unable to perform list while he recovers from arthroscopic surgery on his hip. Usually, Reed works out on an adjacent field with the other players who are also recovering from injuries.

Kubiak said Reed is visiting with a rehab specialist he’s worked with while recovering from other injuries during his career. Reed is trying to return in time for the regular-season opener at San Diego.

Shiloh Keo, entering his third season, continues to start next to Danieal Manning. rookie D.J. Swearinger comes off the bench.

The truth is that nobody knows when Reed will return, including Reed. Whether it’s the first, second or third game remains to be seen. Until then, it’s business as usual, but it’s without one of the greatest free safeties in NFL history.

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Travis Benjamin is known for speed, but he’s also becoming more complete receiver

BEREA: Wide receiver Travis Benjamin believes he’s the fastest player on the Browns’ roster.

But where does his speed rank among all NFL players?

“Top five,” Benjamin, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.26 seconds the summer before his junior season at the University of Miami, said without hesitation.

The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Benjamin certainly looked like one of the league’s quickest athletes as he turned the corner and left the St. Louis Rams in his dust en route to a 91-yard punt return for a touchdown Thursday night in the preseason opener at FirstEnergy Stadium. The Browns won 27-19, and with Benjamin’s touchdown early in the second quarter, the starters outscored the Rams 17-0 before taking the rest of the game off.

Linebacker James-Michael Johnson made the first block to spring the return, and cornerback Trevin Wade delivered the last one to ensure Benjamin would reach the end zone untouched. He’ll also look to blaze by the Detroit Lions when the Browns host them Thursday night in the second exhibition game.

“There were some great blocks out there, and once I knew JMJ had sealed the edge off for me, I knew it was going to be a touchdown,” said Benjamin, a fourth-round pick in last year’s draft. … “I think if I get the edge on you, it’s me all the way.”

Benjamin is filling Josh Cribbs’ big shoes as the primary punt returner for the Browns. Cribbs gave Benjamin him some love on Twitter after his big play against the Rams.

“Congrats son!!!” Cribbs, who signed with the Oakland Raiders in the offseson, wrote on Twitter. “I heard about the return. Keep it going all season.”

Benjamin said Cribbs, a three-time Pro Bowler and special-teams force who played for the Browns the past eight seasons, took him under his wing last year.

“Josh is a great person to me,” said Benjamin, who had a 93-yard punt return for a touchdown as a rookie. “He was a great mentor while he was here in Cleveland. By watching him and learning the things he did, it’s coming along into my game. … He’d tell me what to watch for [like] how to read the punter’s foot. So he always gave me great advice.”

Benjamin is not only aiming to contribute as a dynamic returner, but also as a receiver. He got started on that path by catching a pass for 12 yards against Rams. Last season, he played 14 games and tallied 18 catches for 298 yards and two touchdowns. In June, quarterback Brandon Weeden estimated that Benjamin had more catches during spring practices than any other receiver on the team.

“He has gotten a lot better,” Browns coach Rob Chudzinski said. “He’s using his speed better in his routes. As opposed to last year, where he was just a guy that ran deep, this year up to this point, he has shown ability to run the shorter routes as well and get in and out of breaks really well.”

Benjamin polished his route running this offseason with San Francisco 49ers veteran receiver Anquan Boldin. They were among the NFL players who worked out under the guidance of trainer Tony Villani in Boca Raton, Fla.

For the record, Browns cornerback Buster Skrine ran the 40-yard dash in 4.22 seconds before his junior season at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and still contends he’s a bit faster than Benjamin. Skrine, though, also gives Benjamin credit for evolving into a more complete receiver.

“His routes have gotten a lot better,” Skrine said. “Everybody knew he was a deep threat the first year he came in, but this year he’s an intermediate threat, too. He spent a lot of time in the offseason running routes, and he’s doing a good job of it.

“He’s super dangerous ’cause he’ll catch the ball and run away from you if you’re not in the right spot. As ya’ll saw on Thursday, he did that on a punt return. He’s been doing it on intermediate routes, too, in practice.”

The Browns need Benjamin to step up in his second professional season, especially because the NFL has suspended their No. 1 wide receiver, Josh Gordon, for the first two games of the regular season for violating its substance-abuse policy. Gordon blamed prescription cough medicine that contained codeine, a substance banned by the league, for triggering a failed drug test.

“We will use [Benjamin] as a receiver whether Josh is there or not during the course of the season,” Chudzinski said. “He’s a guy with a unique skill set with the speed that he has. He’s definitely somebody we want to take advantage of and find a role for. He will be more important in those first couple games.”

Benjamin is on track join Greg Little and Davone Bess as the team’s top-three receivers during Gordon’s absence. He is determined to make the most of the opportunity, beginning with the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Miami Dolphins.

“I’m going to go into Game 1 versus the Dolphins looking to come out with a great game, just to fill in for Josh,” Benjamin said. … “I feel like with my speed and my talent, either in special teams or whenever I get on the field, I can make a difference.”

Some believe Benjamin’s slight build could lead to issues with ball security and durability, though he isn’t buying into the skepticism.

“Size doesn’t matter,” Benjamin said. … “I made it to the NFL. … I’ve been criticized about my size all my life, but I’m still here.”

And if Benjamin continues to grow as a receiver and use his speed to crush opponents, he’ll have a bright future at the sport’s highest level.

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Santana Moss backs Mike Shanahan's decision to shelve Robert Griffin III

RICHMOND, Va. — Santana Moss put on his coaching hat, by request, for an instant Tuesday as he weighed in on the Washington Redskins' rehabilitating star quarterback, Robert Griffin III.

If Moss walked in Mike Shanahan's head coaching shoes, would he reverse course and grant RG3 his wish to play in a preseason game?

"I wouldn't do it," Moss told USA TODAY Sports. "No matter what he means to the team, I wouldn't do it. Being a guy that's all about players and the player that I'm considering, I'd have to talk to him because I know deep down inside that he wants to play.

"But he'd have to respect my authority for that decision."

RG3 is on track in his rebound from reconstructive surgery on his right knee and expects to hit another marker by participating in 11-on-11 drills for the first time this summer in Wednesday's practice ... though if RG3 had his way, he'd run 11-on-11s now.

Barring any setbacks, Shanahan reiterated Monday that the target date for his quarterback's return remains Sept. 9, when Washington opens the regular season against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football.

Yet the eager Griffin has declared that he wants to play during the preseason — which Shanahan flatly ruled out at the start of camp and again Monday.

"I want to play, let's get that straight,' Griffin said during yesterday's press conference. "I want to play in the preseason. Coach is just saying that if things go great these next couple of days and next week, then maybe. But it's a hard no right now. It's my job to make that a soft no and possibly a yes. But I'm definitely going to push for it. I feel ready to go."

Maybe someone needs to send RG3 a memo.

There's no reason to risk a setback — and perhaps the season — by playing him in a meaningless preseason contest. For now, he should focus on working on the timing and rhythm with his offensive teammates.

Just ask Coach Moss.

"It's a tough situation to deal with as a coach, but Coach (Shanahan) has dealt with a lot this offseason about what he should have done or not done," Moss said, referring to Shanahan's decision to allow a hobbled Griffin to continue playing in the NFC playoff opener last January in which he tore the ACL in the already damaged knee after clearly struggling to move about the field prior to the final injury.

"I don't think he's going to let that get in his way this time."

Moss, a 13th-year veteran receiver, can also understand Griffin's side of the debate. RG3 is a competitive player, a tough football warrior.

Yet Moss also says Griffin needs to understand that no means no.

"As football players, we've got to abide by what the coaches want," Moss said. "As competitive players, we want to do a whole lot. And I know where Robert is. He's rare. I know it's hard, because he wants to go out there and get into that rhythm and flow. He wants to be sharp and phenomenal like he's going to be, anyway.

"He's special, but Coach has to be hard on him. You don't want that to be the cause of our season (falling apart) because you took one chance and let him play in the preseason because he wanted to."

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Chris Perez throws scoreless ninth, earns 19th save

Chris Perez threw a scoreless ninth inning to earn his 19th save against the Twins on Tuesday.

Perez allowed a double to Oswaldo Arcia but escaped without further incident. He's now thrown three scoreless innings and picked up two saves since his meltdown against the Tigers last week. Despite the occasion hiccups, he remains a solid option for saves.

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Yonder Alonso's average up, but doubles down

DENVER -- Since returning from the disabled list in July, Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso was hitting .315 in 89 at-bats entering Monday. Twenty-six of 28 hits during that time were singles.

Alonso missed 34 games with a fractured bone in his right hand, which put the brakes on a fast start that saw him hit .284 with seven doubles and six home runs.

Although Alonso's average was up in the month since he came back from the hand injury, he had just two extra-base hits in those 89 at-bats, both doubles.
Not that he has noticed much.

"I don't really worry about that," Alonso said before Monday's game against the Rockies. "My season is going to be what my season is going to be.

"My goal is to get on base and drive guys in. As long as I have good at-bats, that's the way it goes. My goal would be to drive in more [runs], but sometimes you can't think about the numbers. I'm hitting balls hard."

Alonso had two hits Sunday against the Reds and had a .353 average in his last 13 games. Over his 21 games since the All-Star break, he was hitting .350, which is the 14th-best mark in the league over that stretch.

A year ago, Alonso finished tied for eighth in the league with 39 doubles. This season, he had nine over 279 at-bats entering Monday. He was hitting .294, up from the .273 overall mark he had in 2012.

"I think guys are pitching me a lot different, too, not giving in as much as they were earlier in the year," Alonso said. "But I think that for me, it's using the whole field and go from there. If I do that, I'll be fine."

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PHOTO: Coach Ken Dorsey Instructing Cam Newton

Carolina Panthers quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey, back, looks on as Cam Newton, front, runs a drill during an NFL football training camp practice in Spartanburg, S.C., Tuesday, July 30, 2013. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

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Lamar Miller's preseason YPC: 6.75

Lamar Miller rushed twice for six yards and caught a six-yard pass in the Dolphins' second preseason game Friday night at Jacksonville.

Miller's stats through two exhibition contests are four carries for 27 yards (6.75 YPC) and the lone reception. He's been used sparingly because the Fins' coaching staff is planning on a huge regular season role for their best running back. Meanwhile, onetime alleged "competitor" Daniel Thomas has 24 yards on eight carries (3.0 YPC) through a pair of preseason affairs.

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Sean Taylor case: Eric Rivera trial delayed

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MIAMI, Fl. (WJLA) - The trial of Eric Rivera, the man who prosecutors say killed former Redskins safety Sean Taylor, will not start Monday.

The Washington Times reports a Florida court delayed Rivera's trial until September 16th. Taylor died in November 2007 after being shot during a robbery at his Miami home.

Four men, including Rivera, are charged in Taylor's death. A fifth man accepted a plea deal in exchange for his testimony.

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Moise Fokou pulling away from Colin McCarthy?

The Nashville Tennessean believes Moise Fokou is beginning to distance himself from Colin McCarthy (hamstring) at middle linebacker.
McCarthy simply can't stay on the practice field. Fokou is expected to make his second consecutive preseason start on Saturday after running with the first team all offseason. It's a concern for a Titans team with holes all over its defense, as Fokou is little better than replacement-level. He's better suited for a reserve/special teams role.

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Tommy Streeter unlikely to make the Ravens

Ravens second-year WR Tommy Streeter is getting fewer camp reps than UDFA Marlon Brown, and "has an uphill battle to make the team."
Streeter is blessed with an outstanding size-speed combination, but "the tools haven't translated to the practice field." Streeter does have practice-squad eligibility after missing his entire rookie season due to torn ankle ligaments.

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Baraka Atkins has chance to end NFL drought with Saints

One of the most intriguing things about each NFL preseason is trying to identify that "darkhorse," that "sleeper," that "diamond in the rough" that emerges to crack the 53-man roster. And that's especially the case with the New Orleans Saints, who have earned a reputation in recent years for turning unheralded guys like Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, Lance Moore and Junior Galette into core players.

This year, my pick in our annual media competition is undrafted rookie linebacker Eric Martin (yeah, everybody knows about him now, but I'm demanding credit for jumping on him first!)

But who says the diamonds in the rough have to be 22 or 23 years old?

Why can't it be a couple of 29-year-olds who are looking to crack back into the NFL after a few years out of work?

Saints linebackers Jay Richardson and Baraka Atkins both have a chance to do just that.

They were drafted one round apart in 2007 (Atkins by the Seattle Seahawks in Round 4 and Richardson by the Oakland Raiders in Round 5). Both have struggled to find a home in recent years, but both seem to have very legitimate opportunities this summer in New Orleans.

In fact, one of them will probably be in the starting lineup tonight when the Saints host the Kansas City Chiefs in the preseason opener in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, because of the slate of injuries at the outside linebacker spot this summer.

Atkins never started for the Seahawks but played in 21 games with 28 tackles and two starts for the first two years. He was waived after the preseason in 2009, then caught on for a couple weeks with the San Francisco 49ers before being released again.

Then over the past three years, Atkins has fallen into an all-too-familiar pattern of being signed in January, then released after the preseason - with the Denver Broncos in 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2011 and the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 (where he also played for Ryan).

It's hard to believe that Atkins hasn't caught on anywhere, because he has definitely passed the eyeball test so far this summer. The 6-4, 265-pounder from Miami has repeatedly "flashed" as a pass rusher, with a combination of speed and strength.

"Another big, physical guy that hopefully he'll shine," said Ryan, who vouched for Atkins before he was brought in for a post-draft tryout. "He did some good things last year (in Dallas), just we were stacked at that position last year."

Atkins is definitely remaining cautiously optimistic himself after the past few years. But he appreciates the opportunity he has received - also getting some snaps with the first-string defense in the wake of injuries to guys like Victor Butler, Martez Wilson and Galette.

Atkins also has a leg up on many of his new Saints teammates since he played for Ryan last year and played in a 3-4 defense with the Steelers and Broncos, as well.

His skill set fits best as a 3-4 outside linebacker. As he joked the other day, "I've always had that 'tweener label since before it became cool."
The two veterans will definitely be among the Saints' newcomers most worth watching in tonight's game.

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Adewale Ojomo Turning Heads

New York Giants LB Spencer Paysinger, who is in the mix for a starting linebacker job, posted a team-high five tackles in the preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday, Aug. 10, to help his cause. DE Adewale Ojomo has turned heads in training camp, and he posted 1.5 sacks in second half action. CB Charles James and DE Justin Trattou also helped their cause for a roster spot with one sack apiece.

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Antrel Rolle has a sprained ankle

Giants safety Antrel Rolle sprained his ankle in today’s practice.

Rolle was carted off the field this morning, and a league source tells PFT that a sprained ankle is the diagnosis. There’s no word yet on how long Rolle will be out.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said after practice that he hadn’t heard anything yet.

“The guy got up and left the field, that’s all I know,” Coughlin said. “Hopefully, it’ll be quick.”

Rolle and tight end Bear Pascoe got their feet tangled when they both went up to try to grab a high pass, and Rolle came down awkwardly on Pascoe’s foot.

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Jeff Fisher: I lost respect for Bernie Kosar

EARTH CITY, Mo. -- St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Saturday he's lost a lot of respect for former NFL quarterback Bernie Kosar, who was highly critical of Fisher's team while serving as color commentator for the Cleveland Browns on Thursday night during the teams' preseason opener.

Kosar regularly criticized the Rams, specifically their wide receivers and backup quarterback Kellen Clemens.

Fisher was asked about Kosar's comments after the Rams' practice Saturday and did not hold back.

"First off, let me say this: The Cleveland Browns' organization is a first-class organization from top to bottom and it has been that for years and years and years," Fisher said. "I guess I'm a little disappointed. I feel bad for them that they had someone doing their broadcast feel the need to speak that way about players, specifically on our team and coaches for that matter.

"I'm just surprised that Bernie has such a lack of respect for players and this game. To be honest with you, I lost a lot of respect for him. It's highly unlikely he knew anything about our football team, but felt the need to make those comments. I don't think they were justified."

Among some of Kosar's pointed comments Thursday night were:

After an incompletion intended for Tavon Austin: "I really think that he didn't overthrow him and that Austin has to make that catch in the NFL. I see why Sam Bradford has been struggling watching how bad these receivers have been for him."

After Nick Johnson dropped a pass: "This is actually not a bad throw. These St. Louis receivers are horrible. That's a drop there."

After Browns play-by-play man Jim Donovan asked Kosar what he'd think if he knew some of the parents of Rams receivers were watching, Kosar said he "would be embarrassed."

Kosar then turned his attention to receivers coach Ray Sherman.

"I'm checking through the itinerary here of guys and coaches to see who the receivers coach is to make sure I don't know who this guy is because he's not doing very good either," Kosar said.

Kosar had praise for Bradford but didn't feel the same way about Clemens. When Donovan told Kosar, who had been asking for the use of a telestrator throughout the evening, that he might get one if he was on his best behavior, Kosar responded with a seemingly out-of-nowhere shot at Clemens, an eight-year pro out of Oregon.

"I must not be because the next quarterback in, me and him haven't done too well with each other, too," Kosar said.

Browns CEO Joe Banner issued a statement on the incident Sunday.

"We don't condone the personal and unprofessional approach that Bernie took with some of his comments during the broadcast Thursday night," Banner said in a statement. "We've spoken to Bernie, he understands that, and we would expect the situation is resolved moving forward. We've also reached out to the Rams organization and have shared those same sentiments."

Clemens wasn't in the game at the time. Later, when Clemens came in, Donovan relayed a story about the QB giving an autograph to Pope Benedict XVI. Kosar responded by saying he didn't think he'd ever want it.

"Bless me father for I have sinned," Kosar said. "I have to watch him the whole fourth quarter."

Clemens finished the game by completing 6 of 13 passes for 116 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions in the Rams' 27-19 loss.

"Bernie's got his issues; they're well documented," Fisher said. "Kellen played well, he played hard, he made plays."

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DeMarcus Van Dyke Remains Sidelined Monday

The Pittsburgh Steelers welcomed back rookie cornerback Terry Hawthorne to the practice field on Monday, but the three other injured cornerbacks remain sidelined as Curtis Brown (ankle), Cortez Allen (knee) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (hamstring) are not practicing, according to a few media reports on Twitter.

Allen, who had minor knee surgery over a week ago, is not expected to practice for at least a few more weeks as the primary focus is to have him back healthy for the season opener. Van Dyke and Brown are likely day-to-day at this point.

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VIDEO: Travis Benjamin sprinting to starring roles on punt returns and offense

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BEREA, Ohio -- Now you see him, now you don't.

Blink, sneeze or look down at your phone and you just might miss Browns receiver Travis Benjamin blazing up the field untouched into the end zone, like he did Thursday night against the Rams on his 91-yard punt return.

"I'm still young in my coaching career, but I've never coached a guy that can run like Travis,'' said receivers coach Scott Turner, Norv's son. "I don't think I can really compare him to anyone.''

They didn't call Benjamin 'The Belle Glade Blur' back at his Florida high school for nothing. He rocked the 40-yard dash in 4.36 at the NFL Combine and has run it in 4.26. Even in the NFL, no one can catch him from behind.

"He’s got stupid speed,'' said Brandon Weeden after the Rams game. "It’s nice throwing to him when we get him on a (go route) down the sideline, but you’ve got to let it rip ‘cause he can run. He’s a big-play threat, so you love it. That’s a spark. He's a guy that's able to break one at anytime.''

Benjamin, the Browns' fourth-round pick out of Miami in 2012, did just that again Sunday in practice when he turned on the jets, sped past Trevin Wade and hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass from Weeden.

"I think if I get the edge on you, it's me all the way,'' said Benjamin.

He ranks himself one of the top five fastest players in the league, along with the Eagles' DeSean Jackson and the Titans' Chris Johnson. After that, he ran out of names.

Question is, can Benjamin's diminutive frame (5-10, 175) withstand the rigors of the NFL, especially if he's returning punts and also seeing increased action on offense? A couple of minutes in his presence and you'd swear he could be suiting up next Friday night for the Belle Glade Raiders again.

"I don't worry about him,'' said Turner. "He's done a great job over the course of his career both in college and last year in the NFL just knowing how to protect himself. He's a smart player, he has good spatial awareness, so he's able to get down when he needs to get down. You don't see alot of guys get a real solid shot on him. Obviously he's skinny but he knows how to play in his body.''

Besides, he's like Plastic Man, extending his limbs to snare the ball and twisting his body to avoid the big hit.

"If you look at the way his body's put together, he's got really long arms and really long legs and he can really stretch them, so he actually plays a lot bigger than he is,'' said Turner. "His catching radius is bigger than most guys of his height and he's able to stretch the field with his speed and stride length.''

While watching film of Benjamin's punt return, Turner was struck by how much ground Benjamin covered with every step.

"He and Josh (Gordon) have the longest stride length of the receivers, although Josh's is a little longer,'' he said.

And you won't find Turner following behind Benjamin in the cafeteria, urging him to plop another serving of fettucine Alfredo on his plate.

"Yeah, you'd like him to gain weight, but you definitely don't want him to lose any speed,'' said Turner. "That's what makes him the good player that he is. I leave that up to (strength and conditioning coach) Brad Rolle.''

Turner was excited about the raw Benjamin he saw on film last season and couldn't wait to start coaching him up.

"He's really exceeded my expectations and it's based moreso on what type of person he is as a worker and as a professional,'' said Turner. "He's a smart guy and he focuses in meetings and takes notes and then on the field he really works on the techniques that I'm coaching or my dad's coaching and he's shown improvement throuhgout the Spring. Coming back here in camp, he gets better every day and it's due to the way he approaches it and the way he takes coaching.''

Coach Rob Chudzinski has been impressed with Benjamin's improved route running.

"He's gotten a lot better,'' said Chudzinski. "He’s using his speed better in his routes. As opposed to last year, where he was just a guy that ran deep, this year he's shown ability to run the shorter routes as well and get in and out of breaks really well.”

The Browns need Benjamin to keep progressing by leaps and bounds, because he'll be relied on heavily in the first two games when Gordon is out on suspension for his failed codeine test. Benjamin will most likely start on the outside opposite Greg Little in those first two contests against Miami and Baltimore.
"Travis is going to have a role in this offense, I believe, throughout the whole season,'' said Turner. "But we're going to have a guy down the first two games, so everybody's going to have to step up, and part of that's going to be on Travis for sure.''

Chudzinski and Turner don't expect the dual role of punt returner and receiver to be a problem.

"A guy like Travis, he can play at a high level for a long period of time,'' said Turner. "He's got really good stamina and he can run.''

Perhaps the highest compliment Benjamin received Thursday night after the punt return was the shoutout from his predecessor, Josh Cribbs, on twitter.

"He was a great mentor while he was here in Cleveland,'' said Benjamin. "By watching him and learning the things he did, it's coming along into my game. Even if both of us were back there [returning], he'd tell me what to watch for (like) how to read the punter's foot.''

But there's one thing Cribbs couldn't teach him: how to run like the wind.

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Miami dedicates locker room to The Rock, revolutionizes alumni relations

Wrestling fans (and fans of ‘The U&rsquoWinking know The Rock’s backstory well by now. Dwayne Johnson was a highly recruited defensive lineman out of Pennsylvania. He went to Miami, won a national championship, got hurt, lost his job to a guy named Warren Sapp and eventually became arguably the most successful professional wrestler-turned-actor ever. (He also attached his name to the Fast & Furious franchise, which is one of the smartest things a person can do nowadays.) Now that we’re all caught up, let’s see what Mr. The Rock is currently up to:

Obviously, this is huge news. Imagine the recruiting potential:

“Yes, my name is coach Al Golden of the Miami Hurricanes. I’d like to give you a tour of our facilities. We have a lot of tradition and history at ‘The U.’ You may remember our great years like 1983, or 1987, or 1989, or 1991, or 2001. We had a transitionary period, but we’re back on track, and we think you’ll fit in nicely. Come with me, I’d like to talk about training and … “


“Yes, Dwayne or Dewey as he was called at the time. We should have named it Dwayne “The Rock” “Rock” “Dewey” Johnson Locker Room, am I right? Ha ha ha.”


See? It’s genius. All famous alumni with enough money, regardless of whether they played football or not, should get into the locker room act. It could be the next big thing in school and celebrity relations. To get things started, here are 20 colleges that should name their locker rooms after famous former students.

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Reggie Wayne embracing expectations

ANDERSON, Ind. — Wide receiver Reggie Wayne said this morning the Indianapolis Colts won’t sneak up on anybody this season.

He believes some opponents might have underestimated the young team with a rookie quarterback and an interim head coach a year ago.

But just because teams will see the Colts coming this time around doesn’t mean Wayne feels like the team has a target on its chest.

“I wouldn’t say we’re the hunted just yet,” he told the media after Friday’s morning walkthrough. “But we’re somewhere in the field, and that’s cool.”

Indianapolis infamously began last season ranked No. 32 in The Associated Press power rankings. This time around, the Colts start at No. 10. But some onlookers retain doubts about the team’s ability to repeat its surprising success without the emotion of last season.

Wayne made it clear he and his teammates still aren’t interested in outside opinions.

“As a team, we feel like we are contenders,” he said. “We don’t let USA Today determine that.”

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Sam Shields hopes to remain with Packers

Nothing new has surfaced between the Packers and fourth-year cornerback Sam Shields in terms of a contract extension past the one-year, $2.02 million restricted tender he’s currently operating under.

With the Packers recently extending his close friend, Morgan Burnett, for the foreseeable future, the 25-year-old cornerback would love to follow suit, but he isn’t in a rush, either.

The Packers began talks with Shields’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, during the offseason regarding a possible extension and planned to continue negotiations once Shields signed his second-round tender prior to June’s mandatory mini-camp.

“I approach it the same way,” said Shields, who didn’t take part in organized team activities. “I don’t get that in my mind about any deals. I just take it one day at a time. Right now, it’s a one-year contract, second-round tender. Whatever comes next, it comes, but right now it’s being patient and taking it one day at a time.

“Whatever decisions are after this, it happens, it happens. Right now, I’m a Packer. I love it. I want to keep continuing to be a Packer.”

In 39 games with 21 starts over three seasons, the former undrafted free agent has 102 tackles with 28 pass deflections, nine interceptions and one sack.

According to Pro Football Focus, Shields led all NFL cornerbacks in coverage last season, allowing a reception once every 16.3 snaps.

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Matt Bosher Performing Well

Falcons coach Mike Smith share some of the highlights from his film review session of the 34-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I thought P Matt Bosher did an outstanding job punting the football even though we didn’t cover as well as we would like. His hang times were outstanding. (He had a hang-time of 4.7 seconds on his second punt of the game.) I think he’s going to continue to be a weapon for us punting the football.”

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Sherman wants Lamar Miller to be every-down back

Dolphins OC Mike Sherman told reporters Sunday he wants a running back who can "do it all" and function as an every-down player.

"Yeah, we need someone who does it all," said Sherman. "You hate to just substitute, he’s this guy, he’s that guy, we want complete players back there. I’m not a believer in the third-down back necessarily, I think you tip your hand." Sherman also stated he wants his offense's "identity" to be run-based. This is all good news for Lamar Miller, assuming he beats out Daniel Thomas. (He will.)

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Eric Winston looks to keep proving himself

Eric Winston's goal was always to start.

"I've never signed up, in any sport, to be a backup and ride the bench and be happy about not playing," he told Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo Wednesday. "That's just always been me.

"When I came here I was looking to win the job. Not be given the job; but I was looking to win the job."

As of now, it would appear he's done just that. The former Houston Texan and Kansas City Chief is listed as the starting right tackle on the team's initial depth chart, and he's been getting practice reps with the first team in training camp.

That said, Winston said he knows enough about how the NFL works to understand that just because he's the starter one day does not mean he will be the next, so he has to continue to practice well and then transfer that into games.

"You're always as good as the last thing you put on tape, so if I go to Green Bay and not play well, it probably opens the door for other guys," he said. "So I've got to consistently stack good practices together and stack good games together."

Winston added that the mentality is one he's carried with him his entire career.

"No matter how much money you're making, you've got to go out there and prove to your teammates and prove to everybody else that you're worthy of your spot, you're worthy of the place on your team and you have to go out there and do it."

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Giants' added depth gives Antrel Rolle free safety spot he wants

Antrel Rolle tries to say the right thing. When he's asked about the last two seasons that he's had to move down toward the line of scrimmage and play either a true nickel position or a strong safety role, he makes like a good soldier. "I'll play any position," he said.

But when it is pointed out that there is a stack of players standing between Rolle and that job this season -- almost an entire depth chart with Aaron Ross, Terrell Thomas and Jayron Hosley all capable of handling the responsibility -- not to mention the Giants' apparent desire to move Stevie Brown down into the box more often, he can't help but smile.

"Oh my gosh," safeties coach Dave Merritt said. "Antrel talks about it all the time . . . Him being able to play the safety position for us now is a tremendous lift in his spirit."

Rolle has been at this point in the last few preseasons, figuring he'd be able to play deep in the secondary and be a ballhawk. But each year there have been injuries and circumstances that have prevented that from happening. This year, though, looks to be Rolle's chance to back up and react. He'll be free of those responsibilities. Free at free safety.

It was odd the way the Giants deployed their safeties last year anyway. Brown came in and established himself as a starter after Kenny Phillips was injured and wound up with eight interceptions while Rolle was banging heads at the line of scrimmage and covering shifty slot receivers. The two players came into the league expecting to be doing just the opposite, Rolle as a playmaker and Brown a big body who even played some true linebacker at Michigan.

The two never talked about the twist, but "we definitely recognized it," Rolle said.

What made it more difficult for Rolle was that he had to lose weight to cover the receivers in the slot, and that took away from his stoutness in the box. He wound up running two or more extra miles each night after practices and meetings to drop from 215 to 205. And he never had a chance to lose the weight during the offseason. "They'd always just throw me in the fire so I couldn't adjust ahead of time," he said. "It's a little bit of a midstream adjustment."

Now, though, the Giants seem to have two groups to take care of the jobs that Rolle performed. They'll have true corners at nickel. And they'll have Brown at strong safety.

Rolle may be overjoyed at the prospects, but Brown will have to be the one to adapt this year. No more glamorous interceptions if he's pulled down in run support. He'll be doing the grunt work. "Everything happens really fast," Brown said of his new spot in the Giants' defense. "You have to see guard pulls and block downs and fullbacks leaking out. You have to be really good with your eyes."

The Giants will rotate Brown and Rolle between the two positions throughout the season, so Rolle will have to do his share of the heavy lifting. But he likely won't be asked to play nickel anymore.

"It's had its ups and downs," he said, "but it's been a thrill."

Just not as much of a thrill as not doing it apparently is.

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Patriots’ Shallow Depth at Defensive Tackle Giving Ample Opportunities to Marcus Forston

It appears the Patriots have figured out that the only way to make young players step up is to throw them into the fire. The most notable example of this is at wide receiver, where Kenbrell Thompkins, Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce are all receiving first-team reps.

It’s also happening at defensive tackle. Beyond starters Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly, second-year player Marcus Forston is the longest-tenured player on the roster. Forston played in one game last season. Rookies Cory Grissom, Joe Vellano, Anthony Reshad White and Scott Vallone fill out the depth on the interior defensive line. Because the unit is so shallow, Forston and Grissom have been forced to take first-team snaps.

If Wilfork or Kelly have to miss any time this season, those players could be thrust into a starting role. Regardless, the third- and fourth-stringers on the team will play. No defensive tackle in the NFL can play 100 percent of a team’s snaps. And while, like last season, defensive ends will fill in at defensive tackle on third down and in sub packages, Forston and whoever else makes the team will need to be in a rotation with Wilfork and Kelly next season.

Yes, even if the team is running a 3-4. Whether the team is aligning in a 3-4 or 4-3, there will be at least two interior linemen on the field in the base defense. Wilfork will play the one-technique defensive tackle role in a 4-3 and the zero-technique (or nose tackle) in the 3-4. Kelly will play the three-technique defensive tackle role in a 4-3, and he’ll kick over to play the five-technique defensive end in the 3-4. So far in practice, it appears one of the defensive ends (usually Chandler Jones) plays the other five-technique role in the 3-4.

The Patriots must have faith in Forston, Grissom and Vellano, because they cut Kyle Love and Brandon Deaderick in the same week in May. Armond Armstead was still part of the mix at that point, but we haven’t seen the CFL import since minicamp. Armstead would be valuable added depth to such a shallow, young group, but, according to a cryptic email sent out by the Patriots, Armstead is recovering from surgery for an infection. The email stated Armstead would recover fully but did not include a timetable or even say what part of his body the surgery was performed on. Armstead had a heart attack while at USC and told the media he was still seeing doctors to monitor the situation during rookie minicamp. When asked if Armstead’s inclusion on the non-football illness list was related to Armstead’s past heart condition, Belichick said it was different.

That may or may not mean it’s completely different (a different body part) or that it’s unrelated, but still pertaining to the heart. Basically, like most things with the Patriots, we have no idea. But what we do know is Armstead could really help this group. He could have been as high as a second- or third-round pick coming out of USC before the heart issues. He was a CFL All-Star last season for the Toronto Argonauts, compiling 43 tackles and six sacks. But until we know if, and when, Armstead is returning, the battle between Forston, Grissom, Vellano, Vallone and White for the remaining roster spots wages on. So far, Forston and Grissom have the upper hand. That makes sense, too. Vellano and Vallone are undersized, and White was released by the Steelers just weeks after being signed as an undrafted free agent. He didn’t get signed by the Patriots until 2 1/2 months later.

Forston and Grissom also have the ability to play either interior line position in a 4-3 or 3-4. They have the size to play the nose and the pass-rushing ability to play three- and five-technique. We’ll know much better how good Forston, Grissom and the rest of the young defensive tackles are after Friday’s preseason game. Vellano is the third-most-likely candidate to crack the Week 1 roster. He’s undersized (listed at 300 pounds, but he looks slimmer), but he’s shown some impressive moves during one-on-one drills. He piled up 13 1/2 sacks in three seasons at Maryland, so he has a history of getting into the backfield. But if Vellano’s biggest strength is getting into the backfield, that may not interest the Patriots much.

Last season, Jermaine Cunningham slid over to defensive tackle in sub packages. Justin Francis also took snaps at defensive tackle last year, and during training camp, Marcus Benard has been playing inside. It appears Bill Belichick likes to add a little speed at defensive tackle in obvious passing situations. That eliminates the need for a pure three-technique rusher on the roster. There’s still plenty of time left before the season starts, but for now, it looks like the Patriots are content with a couple of young undrafted free agents playing behind Wilfork and Kelly. Even with four preseason games still on the docket, time is running out for Armstead to get back on the field to compete for snaps. He could stay on the non-football injury list to begin the season, but that would mean he would have to miss the first six games of the season. Forston has looked impressive so far during training camp, and we’ll see how he holds up in preseason.

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Colin McCarthy becoming a serious question mark

Colin McCarthy is a talented player that has been a sparkplug for the Titans defense, no one is debating that. When he is in the game the Titans look much more versatile and become much more effective against the short pass and the run. However the third year LB hasn't been on the field very much due to injury, and I am concerned.

The rangy MLB has been hobbled by another leg injury (his third in three years), and he is becoming less and less dependable. The question for the Titans now isn't whether he will miss time every year, it is how much time will he miss and does that warrant looking at replacements?

The way I see it there are three options:
Option one: The Titans could stay the course with McCarthy and try to minimize his reps by pulling him out in sub packages.
For example, McCarthy can play first and second down, and then allow a cover LB/DB to come into the game and give the Titans more freedom to blitz for different areas. This mentality means that McCarthy would play much less during the course of a season, but it would also limit the Titans third down run defense. If the team faces run-heavy opposition like the Redskins or 49ers then they could be in for a long day.

Option two: The front office agrees that they will allow McCarthy to continue his cheap rookie contract in Tennessee, but during that time they will look for a capable replacement. This gives the Titans a long period of time to try to find someone that fits the identity of their defense.
Over the next two years, the front office can evaluate draft talent and possibly sneak out a day two or day three draft gem that can come in and be effective. This will prevent the franchise from being pigeon-holed into a bad deal, meaning either drafting someone too high or overpaying for free agents.

Option three: If the Titans are fed up with worrying about whether or not he can play, they can immediately move him to second team MLB, pushing Moise Fokou into the lineup. With a healthy stop-gap the Titans can accurately evaluate how he handles the responsibility. If he can't keep up then they can make a move to trade, sign, or draft a MLB at over-market cost in the offseason. This option isn't ideal, but it would be a decisive course of action that the front office may decide to take.

Either way, the Titans coaches and fans would love to see a healthy McCarthy, and a healthy #52 is the best case-scenario.

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Drop a pass? Colts WR Reggie Wayne said you'd better get amnesia

ANDERSON — In the blink of an eye, Griff Whalen made his coach eat his words.

Asked earlier this week how the second-year receiver out of Stanford was fitting into the Indianapolis Colts’ new offense, coach Chuck Pagano didn’t hesitate.
“I don’t know if he ever drops a pass,” he said.

A day or so later, Whalen ran a crossing route against light coverage and ... flat dropped a pass.

“That’s gonna happen,” shrugged Reggie Wayne, the second-leading receiver in club history and a six-time Pro Bowl selection. “You just hope it doesn’t happen too often or at the wrong time.”

Sunday, Wayne had a pass squirt through his hands. A few plays later, he uncharacteristically suffered another drop. He took out his frustration on the football, walking over to it and kicking it.

“Receivers who drop passes are just like a defensive back who gets beat,” Wayne said. “You’ve got to have amnesia. You’re gonna drop one every once in a while.”

“It’s almost always a lack of concentration,” Whalen said.

Wayne’s routine includes several minutes with the Jugs machine after each practice. He has the person running the Jugs alternate the direction of the passes: high, low, to the left, to the right.

Darrius Heyward-Bey, who brought a reputation of dropping too many passes with him to the Colts from Oakland, also spends time snatching footballs spit out by the Jugs.

Yet drops crop up. No different than an offensive lineman flinching on a false start or a defensive lineman being penalized for encroachment.

Quarterback Andrew Luck insisted he’s not the type to get in a receiver’s face when one of his passes hits the turf.

“From Pop Warner to high school, college, the NFL, it’s part of the game,” he said, adding a receiver has had occasion to gripe when one of his passes sails high or into the ground.

“If I did (berate someone), I’d be disappointed with myself.”

Charting dropped passes is a subjective venture. Was it catchable? Was it tipped? Did the defensive back jar the ball loose?

Two premium websites, for instance, don’t agree on the number of passes dropped by Colts receivers in 2012. Pro Football Focus charged them with a league-high 50. Stats Pass had them with 36, tied for seventh-most.

“You can’t worry about how the league or someone else charts them,” said Wayne. “If it’s a bang-bang play, they can’t really tell if a guy got his hand in the way.

“But I know in my own mind. I don’t need someone telling me.”

According to Stats Pass, Wayne dropped nine passes last season. That was a team high, but he was targeted 195 times, a drop rate of 4.6 percent. The league average was 8.0 percent.

By contrast, Donnie Avery dropped 5.6 percent of the passes thrown to him (7-of-124) and Hilton 6.7 (6-of-90).

Despite reports to the contrary, Heyward-Bey is in the midst of a solid camp. He is attempting to put distance between himself and the reputation he acquired in Oakland as a receiver with too many drops, and gain the trust of Luck.

“When he throws it up there, you got to come down with the ball,” Heyward-Bey said. “That’s what a quarterback looks for and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Heyward-Bey dealt with revolving coaches, coordinators and quarterbacks during his four years with the Raiders. And with his consistency. From 2009-12, Stats Pass had him dropping 6.7 percent of the passes thrown to him (20-of-300). But after a shaky rookie season (6-of-40, 15 percent), it’s 5.4 (14-of-260).
Wayne has dropped 4.1 percent of his opportunities (27-of-651) during that same stretch. Wes Welker’s rate over the past four seasons is 5.4 percent (34-of-633).

Wayne wagged his head back and forth.

“I don’t feel like there’s a ball I can’t catch if it touches my hands,” he said. “Some guys will say, ‘It’s out of my reach’ or ‘It’s off my fingertips.’

“Hey, if it touches these phalanges, I’ve got to bring it in some kind of way. Andrew will be like, ‘My bad. Bad ball.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’ve got to come up with that.’ You know the ones you are capable of catching.’’

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Jon Beason focused on 'permanent comeback'

Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason has endured several surgeries over the past two years, and has been around long enough to know the rehabilitation schedules for the usual assortment of football injuries to knees, ankles and shoulders.

So Beason was a little surprised last fall when doctors told him it would be six months before he could even begin running after microfracture surgery on his right knee.

“I was like, ‘Really? I’ve never heard of any rehab like that,’” Beason said. “You do ACL’s, Achilles – anything soft tissue – you get in that eight to 12-week period, you’re moving around pretty good and you’re allowed to start doing some stuff. It’s very different.”

Beason, 28, spent the entire offseason last year recovering from surgery on his left Achilles tendon, and missed all four preseason games in 2012. He played in the first four regular-season games before going on injured reserve with knee and shoulder issues.

Beason brushed off the shoulder surgery as routine. Not so the microfracture surgery, a procedure that involves drilling tiny holes into bone in the knee to promote blood flow and form scar tissue to replace damaged cartilage.

Panthers orthopedist Pat Connor performed the surgery in October. Beason said he was told half the players who undergo the procedure play the rest of their careers with some degree of pain.

Beason’s knee still hurts, but he’s hoping he won’t have to manage the pain forever.

“Microfracture, where it is on the knee is very different, based on how fast you come back or the pain tolerance,” he said. “It’s new for me, uncharted territory. But I’ve grown to be a little smarter with the process. I’m going through it and eventually I’ll feel great.”

Careful approach
Former Panthers running back Stephen Davis was 30 when he underwent microfracture surgery on his right knee in November 2004. Davis was on crutches for six months after the surgery and didn’t begin practicing until the end of training camp the following August.

Davis played in 13 games in 2005, rushing for 550 yards and 12 touchdowns on 180 carries, before being placed on IR with recurring knee problems. Published reports at the time indicated there was swelling in Davis’ surgically repaired right knee, although Davis said last week his left knee was more of an issue.

Davis said Beason has to resist the urge to come back too soon.

“One of the things you’ve got to understand is the importance of staying off of it for a period of time because it’s just like a scar,” Davis said by phone from his home in Columbia. “If you keep irritating a scab, it’ll keep bleeding. So basically what you’ve got to do is let everything heal. Stay off of it, but stay in shape, do cardio and stuff like that, (and) do a lot of pool work.”

When the Panthers reported to Wofford last month, Beason said it was possible he wouldn’t participate in any training camp practices. He reiterated last week that he’s targeting a return for the Week 1 game against Seattle, but did not rule out the possibility of playing in a preseason game.

“I feel comfortable with where we are,” Beason said. “It’s gotten progressively better just since camp started.”

Panthers coach Ron Rivera has noticed Beason’s progress.

“He’s doing more and more every day. And that’s the exciting thing,” Rivera said. “He comes out early in the morning and does his workouts. He looks better. He looks stronger. So I’m encouraged by that.”

For every example of an NFL player who has successfully returned from microfracture surgery, there seems to be another of a player who was never the same.
Former Panthers running back DeShaun Foster had microfracture surgery in 2002 before playing his first NFL down. After sitting out a year, Foster returned to rush for 429 yards during Carolina’s Super Bowl season of 2003.

Foster had three seasons of at least 850 rushing yards for the Panthers, and ran for 151 yards in a playoff win against the Giants in 2005.

Jets tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. had microfracture surgery in January 2007, but returned to post his best season that fall when he caught 82 passes for 1,160 yards and five touchdowns for Cleveland.

Former Browns defensive tackle Courtney Brown underwent two microfracture surgeries on his left knee. He came back from the first one in 2003, but never played again following the second in 2006.

Beason said he spoke with several players, and heard a mixed response.

“It’s tricky,” he said. “Some guys, they have it and they’re back from it. Other guys, it’s a little longer. A lot of people say that it’s something that you kind of learn to manage more so than being back completely.”

Ralph Gambardella, an orthopedic surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, said heavier athletes tend to have a tougher time coming back from microfracture surgery because they’re putting more weight and pressure on the bone surface.

Basketball players face a challenging recovery because of the jumping their sport requires. Gambardella said a running back returning from microfracture surgery, which is performed arthroscopically, also could struggle because of the stress that cutting puts on the knee.

According to Gambardella, studies show that microfracture is a short-term answer for athletes and non-athletes alike, with the knee repair often breaking down after five years. Despite advances in medical technology and the caution taken in rehab, regenerated cartilage is still not the same as the original tissue.

Gambardella compared it to the difference between crab meat and imitation crab.

“It’s crab, but it doesn’t taste quite the same if you like real crab,” he said.

‘Temporary setback’
Beason has become something of an expert on pain thresholds and recovery times. Since signing a $51.5 million contract extension in 2011 that made him the game’s highest-paid middle linebacker, Beason has played in just five games in two seasons.

Beason made 65 consecutive starts – the fourth-longest streak in club history – before tearing his Achilles in a Week 1 loss at Arizona in 2011. He made it through four games last year before the shoulder and knee problems forced him to the sideline.

While he was injured, Beason watched friend and fellow linebacker Thomas Davis come back following three ACL surgeries on his right knee. Beason’s absence allowed Luke Kuechly to slide from outside to middle linebacker, a move that improved the entire defense and helped Kuechly lead the league in tackles and win AP Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Drafting Kuechly in the first round in 2012 and signing free agent linebacker Chase Blackburn this past offseason were part of the Panthers’ contingency plan in the event injuries and/or age caught up with Davis and Beason.

At the urging of first-year general manager Dave Gettleman, Beason also agreed to restructure his contract. The three-time Pro Bowler took a $4.25 million cut in guaranteed base salary this year, although he can recoup a portion of that through roster bonuses.

Beason said part of the way he’s coped the last two years has been to remind himself there’s always someone dealing with more adversity.

“You lean on the fact that sad times don’t last always. And that’s what makes the good that much sweeter,” he said. “So for me, I know that I’m being tested. But I think it’s going to put me where I need to be for what’s still to come, something that’s going to be great.”

Compounding things for Beason is that when he returns, it will be at a new position. He will flank Kuechly on the weak side, where he’ll have more coverage responsibilities and less freedom to flow to the ball-carrier and make tackles.

Stephen Davis predicts Beason will return at a high level.

“The type of person that Beason is, there should be no doubt that he should come back 100 percent,” Davis said. “He works hard. He’s a proven veteran and knows how to take care of his body. Just watching Thomas Davis go through the things he’s been going through, I’m pretty sure that Beason sees that and is like, ‘This guy can come back from this. I know I can come back from this.’ ”

Blackburn, who joined the Panthers in March after winning two Super Bowl rings with the Giants, said Beason has maintained a good outlook.

“He’s a real positive guy and looking for the bigger picture,” Blackburn said. “He’s a tough rehabber and he’s a good guy to have in our meeting room. He’s always still in the conversations and still watching practice and staying in tune with everything. So when he gets that opportunity to get back on the field, he’ll be ready.”

Beason was noncommittal on when that might be. Based on what he’s heard and learned about microfracture surgery, he’s not going to rush it.

“I want to get out there as soon as possible, but might as well take advantage of the time,” he said. “Trying to make it a permanent comeback from a temporary setback. Know what I mean?”

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Calais Campbell Jumps Toward Improvement

Calais Campbell doesn’t need an actual jump rope.

The idea of one works just fine.

His teammates laugh when they see his legs skipping to a beat only Campbell can hear, making sure his legs get off the ground faster and higher each time. But Campbell knows the more he skips the invisible rope, the better he’s getting.

“In my mind I’m trying to get my feet right because that’s the most important thing when you’re in the middle of a play and you got a chance to win,” Campbell said. “If you can just pick your feet up a little faster and turn the jets on a little quicker, that’s the difference between a big play and an almost big play.”

There were too many “almosts” last season. Campbell spent the offseason retooling his body to become lighter, quicker and more powerful, making sure there are more actual big plays under new coach Bruce Arians.

He lost weight, dropping into the 290-295 range. He did hours of defensive line and hand-placement drills. When he wasn’t partaking in the Cardinals’ offseason conditioning program, he started doing CrossFit and went to Portland, Ore., to work with a mixed martial arts coach. There, Campbell worked on his endurance, balance and a striking mentality. And just about 10 days into wearing pads at training camp, his compatriots on the line can already see a bigger, slimmer, faster Campbell.

“He’s got a lot of sacks and everything but I feel like he’s now growing into the type of player he can be,” nose tackle David Carter said. “He understands how he’s athletic now. Last year he wasn’t the most athletic guy and now he’s more athletic this year. He’s stronger this year. He can play inside more. He’s better against the run. He’s done a lot of growing in the offseason and he’s taking more of the leadership role.”

It could all add up to Campbell’s first Pro Bowl appearance, but he’ll be the first to say it’s not a priority. Even so, another big year could land him in Hawaii. Campbell finished with 6½ sacks and 51 tackles in just 13 games last season. His new defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles, knows his 6-foot-8 defensive end has the talent. It’s now about the little things.

“He’s already a Pro Bowl-caliber player but he has to do the right thing within the scheme that makes everyone else better also,” Bowles said. “I think he’s been doing that thus far. Calais is an outstanding talent. He can play inside and outside. He’s a grown man and a force to be reckoned with. We just have to continue to work on the fundamental parts of his game that allows him to do that.”

In Bowles’ new 3-4 difference, a primary goal is to get the down lineman in one-on-one situations. Under different guidance last year, Campbell was asked to occupy the two defenders that inevitably found him on most plays, in hopes of distracting them from linebackers breaking through the line.

That’s fine and all but Campbell likes his odds against single coverage – even more now that he’s quicker on his feet.

“If I’m a betting man, I bet on (defensive tackle Darnell) Dockett, myself and (nose tackle) Dan Williams in one-on-one matchups any day of the week,” Campbell said. “I don’t think anybody’s going to ask for two. It’s flattering to a degree but I’ll take one. I’d rather beat them up a little bit.”

Campbell’s already seeing the dividends of an offseason of grinding. He can sense he’s faster and if he wasn’t already intimidating offensive linemen with his size, this season they’ll have to deal with his speed.

“When he’s a defensive end he’s probably a little bit of a matchup nightmare for some guys just because of his length,” guard Daryn Colledge said. “He looks like he’s doing pretty well and it looks like they’re going to give him an opportunity to do a little more.”

In Campbell, coach Bruce Arians sees someone who’s “as steady as they come.”

Bowles sees potentially 12 sacks.

And Carter sees someone whose perfected imperfections could start him on the path to the Hall of Fame, Ring of Honor and even another Super Bowl. First, there’s this season.

“I’m going to play at that level,” Campbell said. “I’m going to approach every play the same and try to do something to help the team win. And I think by doing that hopefully, if that talent’s there, which I think it will be, I can be a Pro Bowl player.”

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VIDEO: Murielle Ahoure grabs surprise Silver

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Durand Scott signs to play in Spain

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (AP) — Former Miami Hurricanes point guard Durand Scott has accepted an offer to play professional basketball for Blusens Monbus Obradoiro in Spain.

Scott, the 2013 Atlantic Coast Conference defensive player of the year, also received offers from teams in both Italy and Germany.

Scott helped the Hurricanes win the league title and conference tournament this year, and he set a school career record by playing in 132 games.

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Chris Perez fires a perfect ninth for 18th save

Chris Perez fired a perfect ninth inning on Sunday against the Angels to earn his 18th save of the season.
He also struck out his 33rd batter (over 37 2/3 innings). Perez has only given up runs in three different appearances since coming off the DL in late June, but he's probably still washing the taste of Monday's game (four runs without retiring a batter against the Tigers) from his mouth. Perez is 18-for-21 in save conversions and owns a 3.35 ERA and 1.22 WHIP.

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Jon Jay is finding himself stranded too often

For the third time in Friday night’s game, Jon Jay found himself on the basepaths. He had already doubled in the second and fourth innings, trying his best to give the struggling Cardinals offense a spark. But one batter later, for the third time in Friday night’s game, Jay found himself walking back to the dugout at the end of the sixth inning rather than crossing home plate.

It’s a frustrating time for the Cardinals’ outfielder to catch fire.

He already has three, three-hit games, five doubles, and 15 hits in the first nine days of August, but unfortunately for Jay, most of those hits have left him in the same spot he was stuck on Friday.

Stranded on the basepaths.

“We had a few chances (to score tonight),” manager Mike Matheny said. “We had a good start by Lance (Lynn). We had a few (chances), but we just couldn’t capitalize.”

Jay has heated up since the All-Star break, hitting .342, with seven doubles, and 25 hits. He came into Friday night’s game hitting only .163 against lefthanded pitchers and still managed to get three hits off of Cubs lefty Chris Rusin.

“Stuff is starting to work out,” Jay said following Friday night’s 3-0 loss. “(But) it’s not about individual results. It’s definitely frustrating when you can’t score runs.”

Before this month, Jay has struggled to maintain a hot streak all year. He has switched off from hot to cold in every month to start the season, hitting .213 in April, .284 in May, .231 in June and .284 in July.

Now, Jay has jumped right out of the gate since the All-Star break and has once again been terrific so far in August. In the same month last season, he hit .355 with 38 hits, 16 runs and 11 RBIs.

But not including the three runs he scored Aug. 1 against Pittsburgh, Jay has only crossed the plate five times since the break. In the first five games of their 10-game home stand, the Cardinals’ struggling offense have only managed to score eight runs, resulting in a 1-4 record.

“I think we have the kind of team and enough depth and experience that guys shouldn’t allow something like that to last very long,” Matheny said. “You’re going to have times when you’re just not going to be able to produce offensively. Hopefully your pitching keeps you in the game, which our pitching did (tonight). In general, our offense has been very consistent all season.

“We’ve got to get it done. Games like this, we’ve got to get it done. I think we’re all just kind of fed up with excuses. When it comes down to the bottom line, we’ve got to score runs, we’ve got to score more than them, we’ve got to keep runs from scoring.”

“We still have got plenty of games left, and we are a good team,” Jay said. “It’s just the way baseball goes. We’re going to keep pushing, and we’re going to be all right.”

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Nike cuts ties with Ryan Braun

Nike Inc. severed its endorsement contract with former National League MVP Ryan Braun, who on July 22 was suspended by Major League Baseball for the remainder of the season due to drug violations, company spokesman KeJuan Wilkins said in an email.

Braun isn't the first athlete to be let go by Nike, which released seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong in the wake of his admission to using performance-enhancing drugs. Braun repeatedly denied using drugs after failing a test during the 2011 post-season.

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